Preview: Hornets look to collect first preseason victory against Thunder

What: Charlotte Hornets (0-2) (technically) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (1-1) (technically)

When: 5:00 PM EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Charlotte Hornets will host the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first preseason matchup of 2023-24 at the Spectrum Center.

The Hornets went 0-2 on the road to kick off the four-game preseason slate, though Charlotte’s starters mostly outperformed their opponents in both contests. The 0-2 record isn’t fully representative of the quality of play we’ve seen from the Hornets’ top-end talent so far.

Gordon Hayward will miss his second-straight game with “foot discomfort,” though it’s likely he’s just sitting out of meaningless preseason games for rest. Cody Martin will be out as well, and James Bouknight is sidelined after undergoing knee surgery. The Thunder will likely be without Victor Oladipo, Aleksej Pokuševski and Davis Bertans, who all missed Oklahoma City’s previous game on Thursday. Some other players may also make their way onto the injury report by game time.

Every Hornets rotation player registered 15 minutes or more last time out. Nobody shot the ball efficiently, but the defensive intensity and the chemistry between guards and bigs in ball-screen actions is evident. Terry Rozier tallied 7 assists to 2 turnovers in 27 minutes of play and Mark Williams, PJ Washington and Nick Richards all reached a double-digit rebound total. Apart from shooting percentages, there have been lots of positives from the first week-and-a-half of the season.

The base for a quality team on both ends of the floor is in place; the Hornets have been fundamentally sound defensively and playing with purpose offensively. Once players get comfortable making reads that lead to more frequent productive looks, the shots will fall, and the starters should be able to build a lead big enough that the deep bench can’t give it up in the closing minutes.

Update on the battle for the the third guard spot: in a fairly equal minutes load, Frank Ntilikina (14.3 MPG) is averaging 2.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 steals on 13.3% shooting from the field. Edmond Sumner (12.5 MPG) is averaging 3.5 points, 3 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 20% shooting.

Neither player has scored efficiently, but the scoring and playmaking in the second unit as a whole has been the Hornets’ biggest weakness this preseason so it’s hard to fault them. Ntilikina has provided some playmaking on the defensive end, while Sumner operates better as a ball-handling driver. I’d nominate Sumner for a rotation spot at this point, but it’s hard to say one player has been definitively better than the other through two games.

At long last, we finally get to listen to the Hornets broadcast crew call a game again. Eric Collins, Dell Curry, Ashley ShahAhmadi and new addition Terrence Oglesby did not travel with the team to broadcast the first two games, but they’ll be on the call in Charlotte tonight.

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